Apple Open Directory Linux Client Setup (Debian GNU/Linux and Derivatives)

If you were once running all services on macOS Server then it may be that you are still using Open Directory. Open Directory is an LDAP/Kerberos service implementation and should work with a variety of UNIX and Linux systems. The following gives an example of enabling user login to a Linux client machine connected to Apple Open Directory. I have tested this procedure on Debian GNU/Linux 10, 11, and Ubuntu 20.04 LTS.

Password Server (Kerberos)

The simplest way to start is by setting up Kerberos only; we’ll add the user account information from LDAP latter. Enter all commands logged in as root, or precede all commands with ‘sudo’

  1. apt install krb5-config krb5-user
  2. You’ll be prompted for the Default Kerberos version 5 realm: which is likely your Open Directory servers domain name capitalised for example ‘PROFILEMANAGER.MACINTOSH-RESCUE.NET’
  3. Kerberos servers for your realm: will probably be the same in lowercase like ‘’
  4. Administrative server for your Kerberos realm: will likely be the same if you just have one server ‘’
  5. Now we can test the configuration by trying to acquire a Kerberos token with a known username: kinit -P merlin
  6. Enter the password when prompted then verify that the token has been acquired with: klist

Getting Usernames & Group Info from Open Directory

We now need to setup access to the user information stored in Open Directory’s LDAP database then configure the system to allow login of a network user:

  1. apt install libpam-krb5
  2. apt install libnss-ldap
  3. LDAP server URI: should be something like ldap://
  4. LDAP server search base: should be made up from the servers domain name levels so mine is: ‘dc=profilemanager,dc=macintosh-rescue,dc=net’
  5. LDAP version to use: is 3
  6. Clear all the following dialogues and enter with their fields blank
  7. Allow LDAP admin account to behave like local root? : probably not.
  8. Does the LDAP database require login? : no
  9. Now edit the /etc/nsswitch.conf file and add ‘ldap’ to the entries for ‘passwd:’, ‘group:’ and ‘shadow:’ like this:nsswitch.conf showing LDAP entries
  10. The system should now be able to see Network Users so you can try something like: id merlin #and see if you get some info.
  11. I’d recommend rebooting the system and trying a text login for a network user; you should get to a shell but without a home directory so that’s the next thing to fix.

Automatic Home Directory Creation:

For users to be able to practically login to the system and work they need a home directory, although this may not be necessary if they are only accessing services.

  1. apt install oddjob-mkhomedir
  2. vi /etc/pam.d/common-session
  3. Add the following line between ‘’ and ‘’: session optional skel=/etc/skel umask=077
  4. Save the file, reboot and you should now be able to login as a Network User. Your home directory location is specified on the macOS Open Directory server so you will probably end up with a home directory stored in ‘/Users’ and not the ‘/home’ you’d expect on a linux system.


You should now be able to integrate a Debian based Linux system into an Apple centric directory service. Users can login, get a locally stored home folder in ‘/Users’, and they can administer their own passwords.

It will not be possible for the root user to change Open Directory passwords which would be true of a macOS client also.

Enjoy playing with your linux systems with integration into your network of Mac’s!